Errors aren't a very good way to measure a player's defense. What is scored as an error by one official scorer may very well be ruled a hit by another. The ability of a first baseman to scoop balls out of the dirt or catch other wild throws can have a big impact on the error totals of his teammates. Errors alone don't tell you about a player's range. The list goes on. Of course, if you manage to make a high number of errors, chances are you're not the best on defense.
With all that said, when it comes to defense in the minor leagues, errors are what you hear about most. A minor league notes column might say something like this, "Player So-and-So committed his 27th error of the season last night," and go on to briefly talk about the player's struggles. Sometimes you'll hear about how high error totals in the minors don't mean a player will be terrible in the majors: Jimmy Rollins committed 29 errors in the Florida State League, Derek Jeter had 56 errors in 1993, Omar Vizquel reached 25 errors for the Salinas Spurs before So-and-So was born, those guys turned out pretty well, etc. Other times the player's error total will be used to suggest he'd be better off in the outfield or as a designated hitter.
What you don't often see is where Player So-and-So ranks in the league by total errors. Maybe if So-and-So is leading the league, that will be noted, but it's not usually mentioned if he's third or fourth or fifth, and so on. It's hard to look up minor league rankings for errors, too, so it's hard to get a feel for where guys fit in.
As part of my looking at minor league fielding stats from Baseball-Reference.com I've put together a list of players who committed the most total errors in the minors, regardless of level, league, or position. For example, Gustavo Nunez in the Tigers organization committed 7 errors as a shortstop in the Gulf Coast League, seven as a shortstop in the Florida State League, and four as a second baseman in the FSL. In my list he shows up as having committed 18 errors. Simple as pie.
It turns out that while Mark Reynolds was the only major leaguer to top thirty errors, thirty-four minor league players got there. I've listed them below. Positions are shown the way Baseball-Reference.com does it.
|4||Audy Ciriaco||*6||West Michigan||A||DET||936.1||510||41|
|7||P.J. Phillips||*6/7||Rancho Cucamonga||A+||LAA||1064.0||629||38|
|Carlos George||*64||AZL Brewers||R||MIL||373.0||217||37|
|Matthew Cline||*654||West Virginia|
|14||Brent Brewer||*6/5||West Virginia|
|Lance Zawadzki||*64/5||Fort Wayne|
|Ruben Tejada||*6||St. Lucie||A+||NYM||1099.1||580||30|
|Justin Baum||*5/4||Fort Wayne||A||SDP||966.2||287||30|
It's hard to be a low-minors infielder, I guess. The two guys on the list who reached AAA were only there briefly, so I guess AA is the highest level for elevated error totals. I don't know if that's because bad defense holds players back or if players really improve their defense by the time they reach the top level of the minors. I suppose it could also be that error-prone players who reach AAA probably have a bat that begs for a mid-season call-up, limiting their opportunity to make errors in the minors.
Whatever the reason, you must have noticed everyone on the above list is an infielder. Obviously, they have more opportunities to commit errors. But what about their brethren in the outfield? Twenty minor leaguers reached double digits in errors while lumbering around out on the grass.
|Rank||Name||Team||Level||MLB Team||Innings||Total Chances||Errors|
|D'Marcus Ingram||Quad Cities||A||STL||633.0||178||12|
|Carlos Peguero||High Desert||A+||SEA||479.1||125||12|
|Michael McBryde||San Jose||A+||SFG||1045.1||269||11|
|Michael Mooney||San Jose|
|Shane Keough||Kane County||A||OAK||640.0||131||11|
|Javis Diaz||Lake Elsinore|
Unlike the infielders, error-prone outfielders show up at all levels. Tony Brown's sub-.900 fielding percentage is kind of sad. I assume he must have a pretty wild arm behind all those errors. I believe Luis Terrero is the only one on this list to have played in the majors.
Here's some useless trivia: catcher Gabriel Gutierrez, a Dodgers farmhand, handled the most chances (365) in the minors last year without committing an error. The non-catcher with the most errorless chances was Jonathan Van Every of the Red Sox with 306. Blakeney Billings, the 2008 16th round pick of the Brewers, committed two errors in his only two fielding chances of 2008. It's good to see he picked up the Brewers' defensive philosophy so quickly. Ten other minor league pitchers committed an error in their only fielding chance. Finally, who says a pitcher is a fifth infielder? Scott Mueller in the Baltimore system managed to record 110 outs on mound without a single fielding chance.